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Getting Started with VDI

VDI Deployment

VDI is a powerful tool that allows IT to deliver the functionality of a traditional PC to any device. anywhere, as long as an internet connection is available.  It not only simplifies the management and delivery of end-users applications and desktops, but allows you to take your security to the next level by isolating security risks to the data center.

Traditional VDI Deployment

Storage

Storage is the most critical aspect of any on-premise VDI deployment. Getting the storage right is the difference between success and failure, particularly when it comes to performance. VDI is extremely IOP intensive and will need the horse power of an all-flash or hybrid array.  Latency will kill a VDI project and deter user adoption.  Typically, I highly recommend organizations deploy a secondary infrastructure to support their VDI environment (if at the very least a secondary storage array).  I have personally experienced the mishaps of deploying both our VDI and server applications on the same storage array and the unavoidable performance shortcomings that lead to user madness.

Compute

Servers are a commoditized product and when it comes to VMware they view each server manufacturer as an equal and adequate solution to support their hypervisor and adjacent product sets.  The key here is ensuring redundancy and building in overhead to allow for undisruptive maintenance and business continuity in the case of hardware failure.  I always recommend 3 hosts at a minimum.  This allows for the business to continue operating even in the event that a host goes offline and ensures the remaining hosts have the resource overhead to support the users/applications that were running on the now decommissioned host.

Networking

Networking is the highway connecting virtual desktops to the end users. Having an adequate network to support your VDI deployment will be key (this should go without saying).  While 1GB networks are adequate for smaller VDI deployments (250 users and below), I typically recommend a 10GB network.  Just as with the storage, look at the bandwidth demands on your current network and weigh the possible performance hits from bandwidth contention against the cost of implementing an additional network to support the VDI environment.  Don’t bottleneck the ability of that new, screaming storage array to deliver data and applications to the end-users!

Licensing

With VMware’s Horizon 7 offering there are two licensing models that you can take advantage of: Concurrent Connection User Licensing and Named User Licensing.  VMware offers both licensing options in packages of 10 and 100 as well as in 3 different suites: Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise.  VMware has a great breakdown of the features and functionality included in each suite that will allow you to ensure the licensing package you choose meets the needs of the business and your end-users.  The real benefit of VMware’s Horizon view licensing is that the vCenter and vSphere licensing is made available as part of the Horizon licensing to support your VDI environment (only if it is isolated from your server application environment). Regardless of the number of hosts, you can scale in an unlimited fashion as long the end-users are licensed appropriately.

Hyper Converged Infrastructure VDI Deployment

Outside of traditionally architected infrastructures, another popular choice for VDI environments that has emerged in recent years is hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).  HCI leverages software to take native x86 storage and turn into a shared storage resource.  HCI has shown the ability to deliver superior performance by allowing IT teams to pick and choose between a mix of SSD’s and HDD’s that meet the performance and capacity demands of the organization.  Furthermore, it simplifies the management of the storage environment by eliminating traditional storage tasks and allowing storage to be allocated at the VM level.  HCI takes a lot of the guesswork out of building an adequate environment and, in some cases, come fully configured from both a hardware and software perspective.

VDI is a powerful tool that can simplify management of your desktop environment, add value to the business, and make supporting remote users possible. Just make sure you get the infrastructure and configuration right!  Heavily consider professional services as it ensures the environment will be setup to run to the best of its ability and will decrease the backlash of your users moving to a new way of accessing their desktops and applications.

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